Why must history be forgotten? Is it because it threatens the present? Our life is full of history. Sometimes it is full of painful memories; History of the Nigerian Civil war, History of the Jewish extermination by Adolf Hitler, History of our childhood, parental history that affects their children, history of our married lives, history of our ancestors, history of land disputes in our clans, history that leaves indelible scars on us. Missionaries could not have succeeded in their mission if they had not studied the history and tradition of the people.
When they found that the life history of the people they met was not geared to improve their lives in terms of development and spirituality, they worked on their mindsets. They used the word of God and the scared history to enlighten their minds. They did not allow them to be stagnant with their history. For example, in those days the concept of twins was bizarre and seeing strangers as an invasion of their privacy instead of seeing them as partners in development. If a community has a history of hostility and many negative things happening to them, you must examine the history of their life before you bring them to limelight. Superstitious beliefs are part of traditional history. The woman in the bible with an issue of blood had a history of her illness before she was healed by Jesus.
History is sacred and profane. History is cyclical. We quote great men of history to authenticate our statements. Even Legal and Medical practitioners rely on past histories to solve present cases brought before them. History must be touched in every sphere of life. Any time Nigeria is going through political chaos, the history of the past leaders is recalled to remind us to readjust our thinking cap on certain issues that heat up the polity. History is not a relic of the past that has no relationship to the present.
No. The history of the Israelites and their relationship with God is a sacred history. It is a history made present to us and a history that uplifts our spiritual minds. Jesus is a great history, past and present. In him, we know the history of our salvation. Each time we come to Mass, we remember what Jesus told us to do – “Do this in memory of me.” His suffering, death and resurrection cannot be forgotten. They are our living legacies. We are always in touch with him even though, he died thousand years ago. Jesus is contemporaneous; Jesus is yesterday, today and tomorrow. And yet the history of his life keeps on going. Generation upon generation keeps on recounting this history.
As we live in a human world, we live with history of our lives. Sometimes these histories are bitter and devastating. The pains that come out from our life situation can make us mad and we lose focus in life. Hope is not lost when we are going through series of misfortunes, ups and downs of life. But we cannot rehash all these misfortunes every day and how life has been treating us since childhood. We cannot have hang-ups with them. At the same time, we cannot completely say goodbye to what happened to us. We can only use the lessons of the past to live now even though there may be occasional flash back to the past history as human beings. Any man or woman that forgets the lessons of the past will remain crippled in life.
That is why many people today are carrying many scars that remind them of their unexamined past because an unexamined life is not worth living. In some institutions of knowledge where people should be transformed, they come out untransformed because the institutions may lack skills to transform them. They come out as they went in. They carry family scripts everywhere polluting people’s minds, inciting people against lawful authorities, dominating environment or carrying a tag of self-piety not knowing their limitations.
The modern man has no taste for history. How can one live without history? The Nigerian civil war is a history on its own. It is there to tell the young ones of what happened. We can’t forget the history of our creation, origin and family. Children born without traceable biological fathers yearn to reconnect to their real fathers. They are devastated when their mothers cannot give a clear history of their biological fathers. Some people who lack sense of history tend to break record of history that stood for generations. In America, the black history can never be forgotten because of the new ideology surging into America to rewrite the history of America. Black history is a history of struggles to be in a society of racism and unjust structures that discriminate after surviving the horrors of slave trade. Black history is a history of struggles to be what one ismeant to be; that I AM and YOU ARE. The history of color has been there in all generations. When children read the history of discrimination or racism,the false perception of black man’s low IQ, they imbibe them. Political tyrants don’t recognize any history that doesn’t favor them. History can be written by the powerful and can be sometimes distorted. Those with mindsets can rewrite history to suit their selfish interests. That is a fake history! Today many people have history of covering issues that do not favour them. That is why they are stagnant, unable to examine properly what makes them not to be like others. Whatever we do in life we must hand over to our children, family and the community we live in,the history of our lives. Our good history will be a source of inspiration to the world and our children. No one should steal or alter it.
Very Rev. Msgr. Ukah is the Parish Priest of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, Aboru, Iyana Ipaja, Lagos